“Motherhood” by Giovanni Scifo
Awhile back, my funny and well-read friend Janelle (who is in the thick of it with a preschooler and a toddler) sent me this article: Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid by Rufi Thorpe, on what it’s like to be a mother and also a writer or artist, and the double standard often encountered in these worlds based on gender. An excerpt:
It is rare to see it supposed that a female writer would have written more or better if she had had children, but that is exactly what Gottlieb suggests here: That to be an art monster on some level also requires that one become a monster, and perhaps the work of a lonely and sad monster is actually less robust than that of a psychologically healthy, happy, productive adult.
To make the most of oneself. In the end, this seems to me the only thing truly worth aiming for. And in that sense, I am able to concede that my husband is right: I do not wish to be like Faulkner or Tolstoy. I do not want to be an asshole. And who knows what further greatness those men could have achieved if they had allowed their hearts to be broadened and deepened by their children? Who knows what interesting fissures in their worldview the humility of housework would have caused?
To make the most of oneself is not to forsake one’s identity as a woman or as a mother. It is not to become an art monster if the monster in question is nothing but a drunk asshole. But it is also not to bend entirely, to flap hinge open to your children and your husband and the underwear that may be nestled behind a door, and give up the terrible, wonderful, furtive dream that is the self. To come second entirely, to be only mother, maid, cook, wife, is also not to make the most of oneself. One must learn how and when not to bend.
It is this, the balance between selflessness and selfishness, that is so difficult, but also, I would like to believe, worthwhile.
If you have time, read the whole essay here. It is really thought-provoking. And thank you, Janelle, for always sending me on a journey of self-reflection.